2020 Pantone Color of the Year

Living Coral is dead, long live Classic Blue!

December 17, 2019

Every December, Pantone names a specific color to represent the upcoming year—and the 2020 Color of the Year is Classic Blue, which succeeds 2019’s Living Coral.

Pantone, the company known for its proprietary color-matching system, claims the color Classic Blue “highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.” 

Associate Professor Bryan Leister, who teaches in the College of Arts & Media (CAM), thinks Pantone is getting political: “Since 2000, I was struck by how Pantone seems to be forecasting colors based on what is ‘in the air’ for any given year.” Leister, an illustrator and artist who teaches in Illustration and Digital Design, recalls, “Back in 2008, during the global financial meltdown, they chose Blue Iris, which is not unlike their choice this year, Classic Blue.” 

Why blue?

In color theory, blue is associated with reliability and calm (many banks and financial institutions have blue logos). Blue could serve as a societal antidote to turbulent times. “In a time of divisiveness, uncertainty and instability, Pantone must feel that people will seek relief in the form of a traditional, stable, and predictable color like deep blue,” Leister said.

What is Pantone?

Are you wondering why Pantone even matters? “For people that might not be familiar with the Pantone color system, designers of all types rely on Pantone as a company to provide a system of color that we can use to specify precisely what color we would like a product or design to use,” Leister explains. 

Before Pantone, there was no one method to catalog colors using a specific formula. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) ensures uniformity: “When a designer specifies Pantone XYZ, they can expect the color will be exactly XYZ. Brands build trust with the consumer and they do that through a consistent experience with their product,” Leister said.

collage of classic blue items
Pantone originated their color-matching system, which allows designers in many industries to specify exact colors.

Classic Blue is dividing designers

The response to Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year has been mixed. Some designers love the traditional feel, while others think it’s boring. In any case, expect to see Classic Blue everywhere. “Color forecasting is an interesting part of what Pantone does, and it can seem somewhat contrived to think a group of people are deciding what we will all like next year in terms of color, but that’s exactly what they do,” Leister said. 

The announcement will coincide with a wave of Classic Blue affecting everything from clothing to home décor. “Have you ever noticed in a store like Target you might see a whole range of products with a very similar color palette?” Leister asks. That’s largely Pantone’s fault. In 2020, you will probably not be seeing red or looking at the world through rose-colored glasses—it’s likely you’ll be feeling blue.